It’s the pinnacle of an acting career for many film stars; to be on the stage receiving an Academy Award for their efforts. There may be some that claim Oscar means nothing to them, but deep down don’t most of us crave recognition from our peers? Likely, that recognition is what the stars are acknowledging when they say “it’s an honor just to be nominated”. How difficult, though, must it be for these actors and actresses to pull out their best poker face and applaud graciously as someone else walks up those steps to collect that much-coveted 13.5-inch golden statuette? Samuel L. Jackson famously showed a rare honest-loser face in 1995; he was famously caught on camera cursing after he lost to Martin Landau for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar that year.
Fortunately, garnering so many nominations means eventually one is going to win right? Every talented soul on the following list has at least one Academy Award sitting on their mantelpiece or keeping their books upright…bar one. A supremely gifted actor appears at No. 10 without a win to his name and had to settle for an Honorary Academy Award in the end. At least he was comforted by his estimated $50 million fortune!
It is unlikely any of these actors or actresses would have or will ever reach the heights of filmmaker Walt Disney, who received an incredible 59 nominations during his lifetime and even managed to take home 22 statuettes. But being prolific and excelling in every role has certainly helped the thespians at the top of this list, with the No. 1 spot being occupied by an actress who received her most recent nomination in 2014. Honorary Awards and non-acting awards are not counted. So let’s open the golden envelope and hope none of the nominees burst into tears when they hear someone else’s name read out…
10. Peter O’Toole: 8 nominations, 0 wins
Poor old Peter. This British/Irish actor hit the ground running, being nominated for his career-defining role in 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia. But O’Toole lost out to Gregory Peck (for To Kill a Mockingbird), and then proceeded to lose out a further seven times. He was unfortunate though, having to compete against legends such as Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and John Wayne. His last Oscar nomination was in 2006 for the film Venus, but he lost out to a stunning performance by Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland. When he was given an Honorary Academy Award in 2003 he eloquently stated, “always a bridesmaid, never a bride. My foot!”
9. Geraldine Page & Al Pacino: 8 nominations, 1 win each
Arguably one of the least well-known names in this list is that of Geraldine Page. Her first nomination was for the 1953 John Wayne film Hondo but it took her over 30 years and seven more nominations before she finally bagged her Oscar, for the 1985 film The Trip to Bountiful. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) really made Al Pacino sweat, too. After seven winless nominations, it was eighth time lucky for Pacino, winning for Scent of a Woman in 1993, and not for Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon or The Godfather Part I or II.
8. Marlon Brando & Jack Lemmon: 8 nominations, 2 wins each
Two Hollywood heavyweights enjoy joint eighth place, beating out Page and Pacino for having an extra win (competitive, not honorary). Method man Brando got his first nod in 1951 for an outstanding turn in A Streetcar Named Desire, but he had to wait until 1954 for his first win, for On the Waterfront. Fellow thespian Lemmon won at his first attempt, for the 1955 film Mister Roberts. His second win was for the 1973 film Save the Tiger, ironically blocking Brando from winning a third Oscar, for the latter’s role in the controversial film Last Tango in Paris.
7. Paul Newman: 9 nominations, 1 win
Newman had an incredible career, his Oscar nominations span over 40 years, from 1958 and Separate Tables to 2002 and Road to Perdition. Even though he missed out on a win for classic films like Cool Hand Luke and The Hustler, Newman finally heard his name called out in 1986 for The Color of Money. Newman also garnered a nomination as a producer in 1968, for Rachel, Rachel, which featured Newman’s wife Joanne Woodward.
6. Spencer Tracy: 9 nominations, 2 wins
Tracy was part of the Golden Age of cinema, appearing in classics alongside such luminaries as Elizabeth Taylor, Ingrid Bergman, Clark Gable and Bette Davis. However, it was with Katharine Hepburn that he established a fine screen partnership, with the movie giants appearing in nine films together. Tracy won his golden statuettes for Captains Courageous and Boys Town, winning in 1938 and 1939, thus becoming the first actor to win two consecutive Best Actor Academy Awards (later to be repeated by Tom Hanks).
5. Laurence Olivier: 10 nominations, 1 win
One of the greatest stage actors of all time, Baron Olivier was universally praised for his body of work. His first nomination came in 1939, for Wuthering Heights, and his last nomination was in 1978, for The Boys from Brazil. He won an Oscar for his 1948 adaptation of Hamlet (he also won an Academy Award as a producer of the film and received a nomination as Best Director).
4. Bette Davis: 10 nominations, 2 wins
Another giant of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Davis was as famous for her films as she was for her acerbic comments about fellow screen star Joan Crawford. Davis was the first person to get into double figures for nominations, her first was for Of Human Bondage in 1934 and her 10th and final nomination was in 1962 for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Her victories came in 1935 (Dangerous) and 1938 (Jezebel). It is appropriate that one of her well known quotes was “I am just too much.”
3. Jack Nicholson: 12 nominations, 3 wins
The highest-placed actor in this list, Jack Nicholson truly deserves every Academy Award nomination he has received. This iconic figure of modern cinema has been subject of rumor in regard to his retirement of late; however, he is also linked with a film project by Warren Beatty for 2015, so maybe it is too early for the 76-year-old to put his feet up just yet. His first tense envelope-opening moment was in 1969 for Easy Rider, with his 12th nomination coming for About Schmidt in 2002. But it was his performances in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Terms of Endearment and As Good as It Gets that got him his trio of Best Actor/Best Supporting Actor Oscars.
2. Katharine Hepburn: 12 nominations, 4 wins
In close to half a century of nominations, from 1934 to 1982, Katharine Hepburn proved she was not box-office poison, as she had once been labeled. Her first nomination, for Morning Glory, ended in a victory, as did her final nomination for On Golden Pond. She also won for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in 1968 and The Lion in Winter in 1969, meaning she is the only person, at the time of writing, to have won four Academy Awards for acting. However, the next lady on this list could equal that record at the 86th Academy Awards…
1. Meryl Streep: 18 nominations, 3 wins
Meryl Streep is head and shoulders above all her peers when it comes to the sheer numbers of Oscar nominations received: three as Best Supporting Actress and an incredible 15 as Best Actress. Streep’s nominations came thick and fast, her first was in 1978 for The Deer Hunter and her most recent was for 2013’s August: Osage Country. Streep won for Kramer vs Kramer, Sophie’s Choice and The Iron Lady. In her glittering career, Meryl Streep has won over 100 awards. It only seems fair that one day the Academy will have to rename the award ceremony “the Meryls” in her honor!